A huge lake of salty water appears to be buried deep in Mars, raising the possibility of finding life on the red planet, scientists reported Wednesday.
The device that can be credited for the new discovery of the liquid lake on the red planet is called the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding instrument (MARSIS) and was held on the orbiter known as the Mars Express, which was deployed by the European Space Agency.
With surface temperatures as low as minus 68C, it would not exist as a liquid under normal conditions. This means that scientists can't specify whether it's an underground pool, an aquifer-like body, or just a layer of sludge.
"The shift from "warm and wet" to "frozen wasteland" would have occurred very, very slowly, giving any life that got started on Mars plenty of time to adapt and to move with the water".
Outside experts have not been able to confirm these findings with other radar detections, like SHARAD, the Shallow Radar sounder onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Previously, there has been some suggestions about water on Mars, like droplets of water condensing on the Phoenix lander or as the possible cause of recurring slope lineae, which are seasonal dark streaks on Martian slopes.
The area is similar to that of lakes found beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets on Earth, which also were detected using radar scans.
"This water would be extremely cold, right at the point where it's about to freeze".
Professor Roberto Orosei, from the University of Bologna, wrote in the journal Science: "Anomalously bright subsurface reflections are evident within a well-defined 20-kilometre-wide zone. which is surrounded by much less reflective areas".
He suspects Mars may contain other hidden bodies of water, waiting to be discovered. Brine lakes on Earth can remain liquid at 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the study.
"This is the first body of water it has detected, so it is very exciting", David Stillman, a senior research scientist in the Department of Space Studies at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, told AFP in an email.
"That water could be sourced from asteroids, the moon, or Mars". Still, this doesn't mean life couldn't exist within the lake. However, the latest discovery likely provides the "first evidence of life" outside the planet Earth. "But there are terrestrial organisms that can survive and thrive, in fact, in similar environments". But the MARSIS team had to use a new method of getting high-resolution raw data from their instrument, then had to combine three and a half years' worth of observations-29 separate radar profiles-before they were confident in their conclusion.
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